Can I change the locks on our jointly owned house?

DivorceThis is one of the most common questions I am asked when dealing with separation and divorce.

The simple answer is no.  If the property is jointly owned, then you cannot change the locks without the other owner’s consent. This is because they have a right to enter and/or occupy the property if they wish.

However if there is any domestic violence or threatening or intimidating behaviour towards you by your partner then you can apply to the court for an injunction known as an Occupation Order so that your partner can be prevented from coming into the property.

To successfully obtain an Occupation Order you will need to show to the court that  that it is appropriate for your partner to be excluded.  For example, you may need to show that there is a risk of harm to yourself or your children.

What if my partner has already left home – can he/she come back?

If your partner is still a joint owner then yes they retain the right to enter and/or occupy the property at any time and the only way to prevent this would be by obtaining an Occupation Order from the court.

In most cases it is far more sensible and cost effective to deal with this issue practically and without the need for a court order.  It is often the case that the former partner wishes to collect personal belongings and in this scenario convenient arrangements should be made for these items to be collected.

It goes without saying that if you are able to resolve this particular issue amicably then it is likely that other matters such as divorce and financial proceedings can be resolved amicably too.

 By Lisa Burton-Durham

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I jointly own a property with another person (tenants in common) who no longer lives at the property. I understand that whilst the other owner is still on the deeds she can enter the property when she likes (although she does not live at the property or contribute to the mortgage) but can friends and acquiantances of the joint owner be prevented from entering the premises if I (as the owner of the property still living there) don’t want them to enter? Would I be able to pursue an injunction against the friends of the joint owner if they display aggressive and verbally abusive behaviour towards me?

    1. Dear Michael
      Your co-owner does continue to have rights over the property despite the fact she is not living there. She is entitled to enter the property. Furthermore, she is able to give her permission for friends to enter the property as are you. However if they are being aggressive then there are remedies available either through the police or the court. I would strongly recommend that you seek more detailed advice by appointment particularly regarding the long term remedy of sorting out the ownership and occupation rights of the property.

  2. Lisa says:

    Please help ! I own a property 50:50 with my ex husband, the property is empty ( for months)and is up for sale. I have recently had issues with my current address and need to move out. I would like to move back to the house im paying half to but im worried that i wont be able to have my new partner round to stay with me. Is there a guideline on how many nights my new partner can stay without contributing or being classed as “living” with me??? My ex’s sister is a solicitor and i really dont want a surprise law suit on my hands. Thanks

  3. carol says:

    my son lelfed a joint morgage 5 weeks ago not married no kids .he is still paying half of the morgage .its got so messy to the fact she as change the locks as my son was lelf to wait for her plans .then my son contacted her saying our long will this take for me to get my share .and ws told you will av to wait this as made him flustrated to the sence he said i will split half the furniture if i av to come and get it you are not going to do me out my share .this as brought alot of stress to us .and now she as change the locks could you help us in this matter please and what his rights are thankyou x

  4. L says:

    My mother has left an anusive relationship and come to stay with me. She has lived with him for 7 years so is a common law spouse. However, she was never added to the mortgage. Is she allowed by law to enter the property to collect her things. She has paid all the bills there for 7 years including the council tax. Also, his vehicle was transferred into my mothers name as he is facing bankruptcy. Can my mother keep the car by law to pay off the debts he has left her with, it has been registered to her. Thankyou